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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Madras Lentil

If you like veggie chili, I can't imagine you not liking this dish. It's another winner in TJ's "Indian Fare" line. At a mere $1.99, this product's an incredible value in my opinion.

It's tomato-based, with some kidney beans, lentils, and subtle spices. It goes great with rice, and I'm certain it would pair up nicely with Indian naan bread. It's not particularly chunky other than the beans, and unlike other veggie chilis, you won't find big pieces of tomatoes or other vegetables, but the lentils add a welcome heartiness that adequately fills that void.

The box suggests using it as a burrito filling, in case you're going for that "Indi-Mex" vibe. And I think it would work fine in any context you might use plain old American chili, too. You could put it on baked potatoes, create an interesting dish of international chili fries, or make your own Indian-American chili dog.

But at least part of the fun of dishes like this one is experiencing a small taste of another culture. You can be adventurous without breaking the bank at a fancy Indian restaurant. Apparently, Madras Lentil is also known as Dal Makhni, and it's usually "cooked on special occasions," according to the packaging. Click here to take a gander at other Indian-inspired product reviews from the WG@TJ's gang.

Like the Punjab Choley, this product requires no refrigeration, and like the Indian "hot pockets," it can be prepared in the microwave. It is, of course, vegetarian, but not vegan, as it does contain some cream and butter. It's not as hot as I would have liked it to be, but I guess not every Indian dish is supposed to be a spice-fest.

Considering the low cost, the ease of preparation, and the no-maintenance shelf-stability, this is one of the most hassle-free items we've come across at TJ's—or anywhere for that matter. Sonia and I are both impressed. 4 stars from each of us.

To see the prepared product close up, check out our video review on YouTube.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Trader Giotto's Tiramisu Torte

Loyalty. Listening. Attention to detail. A cursory Google search mentions all these qualities as the difference between being merely good, and being great. I can see these when talking about people and their roles and whatnot, but for certain things and inanimate objects, I'll confess I really don't know what the difference is. Like cigars, for example. I know the difference between a bad gas station cigar and a moderate to good one. That's pretty plain to sense. It all depends if you can tell the difference between cardoard and actual tobacco. But the difference between a good cigar and a great cigar? No idea. I know what I like, and that's about it. My choice of adult beverages usually falls in this category as well.

As does tiramisu. Now, I've had tiramisu plenty of times. I'd wager that I've had some not-so-good, some average-to-good, and some absolutely fabulous tiramisu. I haven't too many that look like the ones on the tiramisu Wikipedia page, which I'm sure would fit in the "absofreakydeliciosomazing" category.

So where does Trader Giotto's Tiramisu Torte fall on the spectrum? Well, you can probably figure from my intro where this is going. This particular adaptation certainly purports itself to be fancy. The package proudly proclaims "Handcrafted in Italy" and they slapped Giotto's name on it, after all. It's yet another frozen dessert to thaw out for a few hours in the fridge before consumption. When it came time to slice it up, well, the picture above tells the basic story. There's the thin layer of espresso sponge cake at the bottom, with a thick layer of mascarpone and a solid dusting of cocoa powder on top. The mini choco-bits that float around amidst the mascarpone aren't terribly noticeable, but that's okay as there's plenty enough flavor and richness abounding. There's not too much that I can say about it that differentiates it from most other tiramisu - everything tastes just about right. It's the usual rich, creamy, semi-decadent fare that my tastebuds have come to expect over the years. It does seem to have more cocoa powder than most, which I'll consider a plus. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to say.

It's $6.99 for the whole shebang, which isn't too pricey for this type of deal.  If we were to purchase a slice or two at a restaurant (whch would probably cost like 5 buck each), and this were on our plate, I think both Sandy and I would be reasonably happy. Actually, Sandy liked hers quite a bit. "Ooo, you'll hate this. You shouldn't even bother eating your slice," she said in her usual tone that means "I want your piece, boy." Then, when I dared mention that it was merely "decent" as my first opinion she shook her head, rolled her eyes and I think even growled a little. "You don't like anything, do you?" Well, enough that I went for seconds, based mostly on the fact that the label says a serving is 1/7th of the torte (how you cut something like this into sevenths, I have no clue) and I had only about 1/8th. Sandy gives it a four, while I'll go a smidge lower.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Tiramisu Torte: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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